Intraverbal Behavior and Verbal Conditional Discriminations in Typically Developing Children and Children With Autism

Abstract

Individuals with autism often experience difficulty acquiring a functional intraverbal repertoire, despite demonstrating strong mand, tact, and listener skills. This learning problem may be related to the fact that the primary antecedent variable for most intraverbal behavior involves a type of multiple control identified as a verbal conditional discrimination (VCD). The current study is a descriptive analysis that sought to determine if there is a general sequence of intraverbal acquisition by typically developing children and for children with autism, and if this sequence could be used as a framework for intraverbal assessment and intervention. Thirty-nine typically developing children and 71 children with autism were administered an 80-item intraverbal subtest that contained increasingly difficult intraverbal questions and VCDs. For the typically developing children the results showed that there was a correlation between age and correct intraverbal responses. However, there was variability in the scores of children who were the same age. An error analysis revealed that compound VCDs were the primary cause of errors. Children with autism made the same types of errors as typically developing children who scored at their level on the subtest. These data suggest a potential framework and sequence for intraverbal assessment and intervention.

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Correspondence to Mark L. Sundberg.

Additional information

We thank all those who helped conduct the intraverbal assessment (Kristen Albert, Judah Axe, Vincent Carbone, James Carr, Lori Chamberlain, Anne Cummings, Carla Epps, William Galbraith, Rebecca Godfrey, Lisa Hale, Ally Labrie, Heather Law, Mike Miklos, Shannon Montano, Shannon Muhlestein, Paige Raetz, Rikki Roden, David Roth, Rachael Sautter, Carl Sundberg, Brenda Terzich, Joel Vidovic, Kaisa Weathers, and Amy Wiech) and the families of the children who participated in the study. Portions of this paper were presented as an Invited Tutorial at the 38th Annual Association for Behavior Analysis International Convention, Phoenix, AZ, May 29, 2009.

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Sundberg, M.L., Sundberg, C.A. Intraverbal Behavior and Verbal Conditional Discriminations in Typically Developing Children and Children With Autism. Analysis Verbal Behav 27, 23–44 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03393090

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Key words

  • autism
  • intraverbal
  • language assessment
  • language intervention
  • typically developing children
  • verbal conditional discrimination